Category Archives: Canadian Journalist

Blog for the discussion of the craft and business of journalism and reporting in Canada

Pulitzer Prize for journalism on secret surveillance

The Guardian and the Washington Post newspapers were the big winners of the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes for public service journalism Monday, for their reporting on spying by American security agencies.

Pulizter announced the two news organizations shared the prize for Public Service:

Awarded to The Washington Post for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.

Awarded to The Guardian US for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.

Here is the complete list of Pulitzer Prize winners:


  • Breaking News Reporting: The Boston Globe Staff
  • Investigative Reporting: Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity, Washington, D.C.
  • Explanatory Reporting: Eli Saslow of The Washington Post
  • Local Reporting: Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia of the Tampa Bay Times
  • National Reporting: David Philipps of The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • International Reporting: Jason Szep and Andrew R. C. Marshall of Reuters
  • Feature Writing — No Award
  • Commentary: Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press
  • Criticism:  Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Editorial Writing: Editorial Staff of The Oregonian, Portland
  • Editorial Cartooning: Kevin Siers of The Charlotte Observer
  • Breaking News Photography: Tyler Hicks of The New York Times
  • Feature Photography: Josh Haner of The New York Times


  • Fiction:  The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown)
  • Drama:  The Flick, by Annie Baker
  • History: The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772 – 1832, by Alan Taylor (W.W. Norton)
  • Biography:  Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Poetry:  3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri (Graywo lf Press)
  • General Nonfiction:  Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, by Dan Fagin (Bantam Books)


  • Become Ocean, by John Luther Adams, premiered on June 20, 2013 by the Seattle Symphony (Taiga Press/Theodore Front Musical Literature)



Also posted in All, Current Affairs

Afghan policeman kills photo-journalist, injures reporter

A police commander today shot two journalists covering Afghanistan’s election for the Associated Press, killing German photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus and injuring Canadian reporter Kathy Gannon.  Said an Associated Press statement by Gary Pruitt:

It is with grief and great sadness that I let you know that photographer Anja Niedringhaus has been killed while working in Afghanistan. Anja and Kathy Gannon, regional correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, were in Khost covering the run-up to the presidential elections in Afghanistan when, it appears, they were targeted and attacked. Kathy survived, but Anja died. Kathy is being treated at a hospital.

Niedringhaus becomes the 26th journalist killed in Afghanistan, according to Reporters Without Borders. On March 21 Agence France-Presse journalist Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two of their three children were among nine people shot dead in a Kabul hotel restaurant.

The two AP journalists were in their own car which was stopped in a convoy, “when a police commander approached the car and looked through its windows,” the New York Times reported from Kabul. “He apparently stepped away momentarily before wheeling around and shouting “Allahu akbar!” — God is great — and opening fire with an AK-47, witnesses and The A.P. said. His shots were all directed at the back seat.”

“Where once reporters and photographers were seen as the impartial eyes and ears of crucial information, today they are often targets,” said the AP statement. “This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate and important.  Anja Niedringhaus met that definition in every way. We will  miss her terribly.”

— Deborah Jones

UPDATE, July 23, 2014: Six judges in the Kabul District Court today convicted police unit commander Naqibullah, an Afghan police officer, of of murder and treason in the killing of Niedringhaus and wounding of Gannon. The court sentenced him to death for the murder and to four years in prison for wounding Gannon, the AP reported. The case may yet be appealed and Afghanistan’s president is required to sign off on the execution order.

Further reading:

Anja Niedringhaus’s web site  
Kathy Gannon’s web site 
Associated Press statement 
The Atlantic 2013 feature on Anja Niedringhaus’s photos

Also posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Tagged , |

F&O Weekend

F&O’s rich selection of reports, analysis and commentary this weekend includes: new Commentary pieces by Chris Wood and Jonathan Manthorpe, and an Arts note on Norway’s choice of a design to memorialize the country’s horrific 2011 slaying. A Dispatch from ProPublica reviews research on the health impact of fracking for natural gas, while in Expert Witness a professor makes a case for thinking smarter — much smarter — about geoengineering and climate change.

Norway’s Void (Public access)

Jonas Dahlberg_Cut_6- Photo-Jonas-Dahlberg-Studio-1024

© Jonas Dahlberg Studio

A “memory wound” was chosen this month by a Norwegian panel to memorialize the 2011 massacre of 77 people, most of them teenagers, by a political extremist. The winning entry in the July 22 Memorial design competition is by Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg. Its several parts are dominated by a void – literally, a slice to be removed from the island where Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered 69 children attending a political camp.

Chris Wood’s new Natural Security column, Eight Simple Rules (Subscription)

She’s looking for love, not to get fracked. These eight simple rules — borrowed from an American sit-com — are addressed to any person (corporate or otherwise) who asks to take my planet out for a date at the mines, the oil well, or the multi-acre Walmart parking lot. By all means, have fun, kids. Come home with a tattoo and a stray dog you found in the street, if you like. Just follow these eight simple rules…

Jonathan Manthorpe: on Malaysian politics, and Chinese Imperialism (Subscription)

Manthorpe writes this week of the conviction of Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, for sodomy in a clearly politically motivated trial. Will it backfire on the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition? The judicial persecution of Anwar by the government has been going on for 16 years, and yet his public support remains solid. Turning his gaze on Ukraine, Manthorpe examines Russia’s motives for interfering in the Crimea — and concludes that the serious Imperialist threat in the world comes not from Russia, but China.

Drilling for Certainty: The Latest in Fracking Health Studies (Public access)

For years environmentalists and the gas drilling industry have been in a pitched battle over the possible health implications of hydro fracking. But to a great extent, the debate has been hampered by a shortage of science. The science is far from settled — but there is a growing body of research to consider. ProPublica offers a survey of some of that work, in air quality, birth outcomes, and other health risks.

On Geoengineering: a case for sophisticated thinking. By Brad Allenby (Public access)

The failure of the Kyoto Protocol and the underlying process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has led to substantial interest in geoengineering technologies …  The response of falling back on ideological certainties, romantic visions, and over-simplistic worldviews at some point becomes simply a form of irresponsible denial, because the complexity of the systems within which we are embedded mean that there is no home base, no golden age to return to — and our network of systems continues to evolve, and to reflect the growing dominance of human influence. And it will do so regardless of what stories we tell ourselves to try to avoid our responsibilities. What we can do is, to the best of our ability, rationally and ethically respond to the challenges we face. Geoengineering technologies are a part of the technology response that must be developed, but they are only a part, and as we explore them and their implications we need to be far more sophisticated in how we think about them as technologies, and manage them as part of an increasingly engineered planet.



Last but not least, here’s a video for a brain break.

Crows are raspers — to songbirds as Vanilla Ice is to Mozart. And yet it was a photo of crow-like birds, sitting on electric wires, that inspired Jarbas Agnelli to write a piece of music using the location of the birds as notes. He notes on the Vimeo site, below, “I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.” Agnelli credits the composition of the work, Birds on the Wires, to the birds.  The video was a Vimeo staff pick four years ago. It’s worth a fresh listen.

Have a good weekend.

– Deborah Jones

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Also posted in All, Current Affairs, Gyroscope

F&O Weekend

F&O wraps up the week with an eclectic range of slow journalism from the past, present and future:

 Critical Assembly: A Drama Critic Remembers Berlin.

Graff BrennanTwo years before the wall came down, in 1987, historian and author Brian Brennan joined 139 other writers from 40 countries in Berlin, for an international conference on theatre on the 750th anniversary of Berlin’s founding. The meeting was fractious: “it seemed some of us would never agree on where to go for a good plate of liver dumplings, much less agree on how theatre could be made more relevant to our day-to-day lives,” he recalls. And yet, suddenly, theatre critics from around the world came to agreement — on a plea for world peace, “after we had visited the former concentration camp in Buchenwald where Nazis killed thousands of prisoners during the Second World War. Without world peace, we agreed, all this talk about the relevance of theatre would be just so much blather.” (Subscription)

SEAN NOBLE: Dark Money Man for the ‘Kochtopus.

For a brief, giddy moment, Sean Noble — a little-known former aide to a congressman in Arizona, United States — became one of the most important people in American politics, Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer write in an investigative ProPublica report this week.Plucked from obscurity by libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Noble was tasked with distributing a torrent of political money raised by the Koch network, a complex web of nonprofits nicknamed the Kochtopus, into conservative causes in the 2010 and 2012 U.S. elections. (Public access)

Venezuela’s slow-motion coup and a small moment in the story of China and Taiwan

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe casts his attention from Asia to South America in two new pieces this week. In Venezuela, he writes, there were hopes when President Hugo Chavez died that “the end of his strutting, belligerent and goading influence would calm the country’s violently polarised politics.” Instead, a “slow-motion coup” is apparently under way. In Asia Manthorpe examines the implications of a historic meeting between China and Taiwan – and finds its import over-rated. (Subscription)

Museums at the Crossroads: a Future for Cultural Institutions

RBCM Student Classroom

Jack Lohman

In an essay, excerpted in F&O‘s Expert Witness section from his new book, museum director and author Jack Lohman issues a warning about the future of our cultural institutions — and why they matter to increasingly cosmopolitan and multicultural societies. He writes: “We have entered another Churchillian “period of danger,” but one of an unprecedented nature. We live in an age of profound cultural transition, a time in which the complexity of our multicultural world confronts us with challenges that have taken on an urgency and intensity quite unlike anything we have experienced in history. It is a time when hardly any of our public institutions are free from having to undergo deep soul-searching as to their meaning and their role…” (Public access)

Commander in Guatemala Massacre of 250 Sentenced to 10 Years.

One part of a complex and grueling saga came to something of an end this week, as a United States federal judge sentenced a former Guatemalan Army officer to the maximum 10 years in prison Monday — but only for immigration crimes. It took the efforts of authorities in three countries — Canada, the United States and Guatemala. As Sebastian Rotella of ProPublica reports, the judge ruled that the ex-commando obtained U.S. citizenship by concealing his role in the massacre of 250 men, women and children in a Guatemalan village in 1982. (Public access)

Have a good weekend.

– Deborah Jones

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Also posted in All, Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Journalism matters: conflicts of interest

Journalists paid by industry or a partisan outfit are no longer “journalists.” They are practicing professional public relations. So where does that leave Canada’s Rex Murphy vis a vis his freelance jobs with Canada’s public broadcaster, as a commentator on the flagship National TV newscast, and as host of the radio call-in show Cross Country Checkup?

Murphy, who has spent a lifetime in journalism, has had his role with the country’s public broadcaster questioned recently because of paid speaking gigs in the oil industry, where he’s known for pro-industry commentary and his record as a skeptic of climate-change science.

Journalist Andrew Mitrovica wrote a scathing opinion piece for iPolitics, Rex Murphy, the oilsands and the cone of silence, calling out the CBC on conflict-of-interest and lack of transparency: “The CBC is engaged in a corrosive, myopic effort to circle the proverbial wagons in order to protect its battered “brand” and a popular performer – at the expense of honesty, openness, transparency and … journalistic responsibility.”


Mitrovica is not the only critic; there have been items in numerous journalism and other outlets including, earlier this month, on Pressprogress, a web site dedicated to “progressive solutions” that is a project of the Canadian  Broadbent Institute, founded by a former New Democratic party leader. PressProgress posted a factual and much-linked piece with a title that sums up the controversy: “Rex Murphy and Big Oil: friends with benefits?

The CBC does nothing to help itself. Editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire responded that Murphy is a National show commentator — and “taking a provocative stand is what we pay him to do.” Fair enough: there is a distinct line (which most in the media fail to explain to our audience) between opinion and reporting. But what of his radio hosting job? Calling him a “freelancer,” which McGuire also does, doesn’t cut it. Murphy may be technically a freelance independent, but other freelancers for the CBC, as for all world-class quality journalism outfits, are held to strict ethical standards. Even Murphy’s own agency for independent speaking gigs sells him on the basis of his relationship with the CBC, as “a trusted face and voice across Canada on CBC TV and CBC Radio One … ” And it’s at best disingenuous of the CBC to downplay its relationship with Murphy when its very own, and badly outdated, page about Murphy  touts his many and diverse roles:

He has worked extensively with CBC and from Newfoundland he has contributed many items on current affairs issues. For The National he has done a number of documentaries, including the highly acclaimed “Unpeopled Shores,” as well as interviews with immensely popular authors, the late Frank McCourt of Angela’s Ashes, among them.

Journalism matters — and the value of opinion in journalism is rooted in factual credibility plus, at the very least, a declaration of conflicts of interest.

— Deborah Jones

Disclosure: I’m an avid supporter of the CBC, and believe in a strong, respected and ethical public broadcaster. Excepting a handful of radio docs and paid TV and radio appearances many years ago, I have no financial stake in the CBC.

Also posted in Gyroscope Tagged , , , |

The Newfoundland Mummers

The Mummers Parade by Greg Locke

As the year ends and winter gets a grip in the Northern latitudes, many cultures mark the passing of another year and the coming of winter with annual religious and folk festivals and events. In the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the remote and isolated coastal fishing villages long held on to traditions brought from England and Ireland. A mix of ancient Celtic, Pagan and Anglo-Saxon rituals merged with Christianity and the celebration of Christmas. One of those traditions, Mummering, has enjoyed a cultural revival in urban areas in recent years. Check out Greg Locke’s slide/sound presentation, Mummers The Word, from this year’s annual Mummers Parade in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (Subscriber-only content.)

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“Regret the error, we do” – once we stop laughing

With a nod to our own house of  glass, I’m laughing out loud at the list of best and worst media errors and corrections of 2013, by Craig Silverman at the Poynter Institute.

The outrageous ones will give you a giggle: the British outlet that apologized and paid damages for an “exclusive” interview with Roger Moore that was completely made up; an American consumer magazine that admitted wrongly labeling someone a journalist when “in fact she is a practitioner of vibrational energy medicine.”

Don’t let your high dudgeon over the “error of the year” — bungled reporting by American news program 60 Minutes on an attack on American diplomats in Libya — make you overlook the delicious Star Wars-inspired “correction of the year.”

The list is a funny romp underpinned, as we’d expect of Poynter, by its founder’s mission: to nurture and hold to account the kind of independent journalism that helps “maintain the integrity, the stability, the progress of self-government.”

— Deborah Jones                                  

 Further reading:
The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013, by Craig Silverman at the Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute mission

Also posted in Gyroscope Tagged , , |

Canadian reticence makes journalism “brutally difficult”

“This is a really weird country to work in,” Adrienne Arsenault said of being a journalist in Canada.

It’s “brutally difficult” working in Canada compared to being a journalist abroad, said the foreign correspondent for The National, the flagship TV news program of CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster. “People are very closed… this is no whistler-blowing culture,” she told a journalism panel. “We’re a really weird group of people.”

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Newfoundland fishery 20 years after cod moratorium

Gerald Cooper of Trinity Bay, Newfoundland bring home the only thing he caught, a lone mackerel, on his last day of fishing before retiring. Photo by Greg Locke © 1999.

Twenty years after the Canadian government shut down the 500 year old Newfoundland cod fishery there are few signs of recovery of the near-extinct legendary fish stocks on the Grand Banks and north west Atlantic ocean. The fishery has changed but it is still possible for an ecologically viable and sustainable fishing activity … if the assorted governments, unions and fish companies would look for a better way and take responsibility for their actions. Check out  Two decades of disaster: Newfoundland’s fishery. for my look back on 20 years since the moratorium.


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Celebrity “Click Bait” vs Journalism

An opinion poll suggests a large majority of Canadians blame sensationalized celebrity reports on media outlets that run them “to get as many people as possible to go to their digital media site to earn ad revenue,” said a report today by polling firm Ipsos Reid.

Some 68 per cent blame infotainment on media, while the remainder say the “news” is driven by celebrities and their publicists.

The company did the poll on behalf of the Canadian Journalism Foundation. It interviewed 1,108 Canadians from Ipsos’ Canadian online panel online, between November 11th to 16th. The company said the poll is accurate to within +/- 3.4 percentage points — “had all Canadian adults been polled.”

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